There is so much mental noise in our world today. Never before have we had so many options — things to look up, think about, worry about and, most of all, feel guilty about. It’s really hard to be perfect.
Guest post – Chris Helder
Everyone else seems to be perfect, though. Everyone we know is smiling, laughing and partying, with a drink in their hand, or on holiday in some tropical paradise, parading the best version of their world for everyone to admire. It’s all so exciting — but of course nothing is really as perfect as it seems.
We glimpse other people’s lives through our phones and tablets. For the most part, we are genuinely happy for them. We want them to find love, to relish a family reunion, to celebrate a milestone with a great meal at a top restaurant. We are happy to share those moments with our friends. At the same time, we also like to be recognised for our own exciting life. It feels good when people like us. It feels good to be validated.
The problem is our life is not going to be perfect. In fact, there is often a big gap between reality and our projection of reality, and it is easy to feel a sense of guilt about not being able to bridge that gap.
In this media age, as people feel compelled to push the best version of their lives out to their friends and followers, this version can be a lot to live up to. We live in a world that is constantly barraging us with both information and the pressure of expectation in every area of our life, whether financial, business, relationship, parenting, family, friends or health.
Over the past 16 years I have presented to more than two thousand audiences on five continents, I have met countless people who are trying so hard to push through all the mental noise in their lives, to be the perfect parent, partner, husband, wife, employee or employer while at the same time staying perfectly fit and never ageing.
Much of this internal noise revolves around people’s feelings of guilt because they are unable to live up to these expectations. They are working late and feeling guilty for not being home with their family. Or they are managing a household and not finding time to keep fit and healthy. They try to juggle their time between work, home and fitness, but in the back of their minds, they know their relationship is suffering because they are so constantly busy.
Recently I was talking with a very good friend who shared with me his own story of guilt. It’s a game he has no possibility of winning. He likes to go to the gym at lunchtime. Every day at 11.30am he thinks about going to the gym. Some days he decides he is too busy to go, then he spends the entire lunch hour feeling guilty about his decision. On other days he decides he will go to the gym, but while working out he is constantly checking his phone. He feels he can’t focus on the workout, so once again he feels guilty about his decision.
I want to change this pattern that so many of us experience in one way or another. We have to stop beating ourselves up.
I want to introduce an idea called ‘10 seconds of guilt…move on’. I hope you like it and can use it to help you enjoy your life more. It’s about acknowledging a feeling that is not useful and then quickly moving past this feeling. There are studies that suggest that more than 90 per cent of the things we worry over and feel bad about either will never happen or are things we cannot change.
This idea has really resonated with my Australian audiences. So many people, both men and women, have come up to me and shared their feelings of guilt around their aspiration to be perfect. Women have told me of their need to be a corporate powerhouse, domestic goddess, great mother, wonderful wife, perfect friend — and still find time to do yoga, work out at the gym and call their mother-in-law. It’s impossible!
Deluged by a media storm of news, fake news and social media messaging, we struggle to keep up. All that external noise creates a swirl of internal noise about what we should care about and how we should behave in our efforts to get it all right.
But the storm of information only convinces us of our many shortcomings. We must improve the quality of our lives, our health and fitness, our general happiness. Any failure to act makes us feel guilty. We need to lose weight, burn carbs, curb our sugar and salt intake, eat more superfoods! Sometimes it feels like the experts say one thing one year and contradict themselves the next. We are being marketed so heavily it is driving us to overwhelm.
The consistent message is that we must turn our lives around.
I hear a lot of motivational speakers at conferences seeking to convince their audience that they need to ‘transform’ themselves, to make massive changes in their lives. For most people, the prospect of personal transformation is overwhelming. In any case, the vast majority don’t want to be transformed. There are exceptions in every audience, but most people do not want to spend the energy and commitment to double or triple their output. They simply want to get the most out of the life they have in a way that is realistic and achievable. People have a lot going on. That’s okay.
My experience is that for most people useful, effective change is not about being transformed. Rather, it happens when people focus on a couple of things they want to adjust. When they are able to shift just a few of those stumbling blocks to their greater success, the trajectory of their lives and businesses changes dramatically.
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